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Door Knobs or Levers: Which Handle Design is Best?

The lowly door handle. Do you give it much thought beyond the way it looks? There are many articles and buyer’s guides that discuss the various sub-types of door handles such as keyed entryway, passage, privacy, double cylinder, etc. But what about their most basic design element: knob versus lever? Which should you choose?

As with many things in life, the answer is, “it depends”. Having grown up in homes with door knobs, I had always wanted levers. Now, I have doors with levers and sometimes I like them, other times I don’t. If you’re thinking about doing a little remodeling, there are aspects of door handles that should be considered, beyond their aesthetics, to ensure that your choice meets the needs of the household.

Door knobs

Door knobs, as shown in the featured image above, are usually round or similarly symmetrical and have been commonplace as far back as the 17th century. They may be common, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.


  • They work with doors that swing in either direction. Door knobs tend to be symmetrical and, as a result, operate the same way regardless of the door configuration.
  • Door knobs are difficult for pets and children to open, if you don’t want them opening doors on their own. Hence, this could be considered safety feature.
  • Child-safety covers to prevent opening the door are more readily available and generally less expensive for knobs than they are for levers.
  • Depending on the design, knobs generally don’t catch on or damage clothing and are safer if bumped into.


  • Difficult for pets and children to open, if you prefer that they go in or out on their own.
  • For those with limited hand or arm strength, knobs can also be a problem to open. Egg-shaped door knobs may provide additional grip and leverage if you don’t want to use levers.
  • Since knobs require twisting, they do not comply with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and guidelines.

Door levers

Door levers spotted in Graz, Austria (Credit: sualk61/Flickr)

Levers are often perceived as a more elegant or high-end form of door hardware than the common door knob. Whether they are plain or ornate, they have their pros and cons as well.


  • Doors with levers are easier to open for those with limited hand or arm strength because pushing or pulling the lever provides more leverage than twisting a knob. This is also useful when you have to open a door while your hands are full (e.g., use your elbow).
  • Enable pets and children to open the door, if  you want them to do so on their own.
  • Levers can be used to comply with Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and guidelines.


  • They must match the orientation of the door: right hand vs. left hand. Door knobs can usually be interchanged.
  • Child-safety covers are not as prevalent for levers as they are for door knobs and tend to cost more.
  • Depending on the design, levers can be quite hazardous to children when they bump into them. To minimize this danger, be sure that the lever has no sharp or very narrow edges and that its end curves inward toward the door.
  • Levers can also be hazardous to clothing. It is surprisingly easy to catch the corner of a sweater or the pocket of a jacket on the end of the handle.

Whether you have children, pets, special requirements or just a strong preference for a particular look, there is bound to be a handle to meet both your functional and stylistic needs. As for me, I still like door levers, except when one decides to grab me by the hem of my shirt.

Have you recently completed a remodeling project? Which type of door hardware did you choose and why?


Tell us what you're thinking. Leave a comment.

  1. anil Reddy says: November 11, 2013


  2. Vicky says: March 6, 2014

    Thanks. That was helpful.

  3. Nona says: November 2, 2014

    When I turned 50, it seemed every joint in my body decided to rebel and I could no longer turn the door knob to get out of the house. I replaced with a lever and it was so much easier to open BUT I bought cheap and yesterday the outside lever snapped off. It’s -14*C outside and I am not looking forward to standing out there replacing the lever but this time I am buying a better brand. We all know the old saying “you get what you pay for” but still we try to economize on things. By the way, my lever that broke and the new one I am buying did/do not matter which way the door opens – they were able to be used on right and left hand opening doors.

  4. Aria Wellington says: March 3, 2016

    My sister has a few little kids in her home that really struggle with the door knobs. I like what you said about levers being more easy to open with children so I will have to let her know. They have been doing some remodeling with their front porch so getting levers might be something they would want to include with this project. Thanks for sharing!

  5. David Gordo says: May 4, 2017

    How can I find these in the uk?

  6. Lauma Solakis says: June 1, 2017

    The door knob is as logical and practical as having square wheels or screws I have traveled many countries over three continents and never encountered this very problematic door opener called knob Who could possibly have come up with this “brilliant” idea The lever can be moved with a package or even with an elbow or a hip but try that with the door knob

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